While USDA has monitored crops around the world for almost a century, the discovery that satellites can “see” greening of vegetation has revolutionized agricultural monitoring for food security. The development of the GLAM system in the 1980s, a collaboration with USDA and the International Production Assessment Division, has helped governments to assess whether or not there will be enough basic food crops to feed their populations, as well as provide international food aid organizations with a tool to predict where food shortages might occur.
Did you know NASA keeps track of food production from orbit?
Pioneering scientists in the 1980’s realized that satellites could “see” plants growing from space.
This monumental discovery occurred when NASA scientists figured out how to use satellites to measure chlorophyll in plants which is reflected as green light into space.
With a flood of new data pouring in, NASA, USDA and the University of Maryland created an online tool that could track crop health anywhere in the world in near-real-time.
The team called the inaugural platform, GLAM – Global Agricultural Monitoring. The system has withstood the test of time and is still in use today.
Inspired by technological advancements and increased computing power in recent years, additional global agricultural monitoring systems have been developed, including NASA Harvest’s GLAM 2.
Here at home, when a massive derecho hit the Midwest in August of 2020, satellite data helped analysts to rapidly assess the damage.
This natural disaster caused upwards of four billion dollars in damage one of the costliest windstorms of the past decade.
Using Earth observation data for these types of damage estimates helps American and international markets prepare for potential commodity crop shortages.
In the face of more extreme weather due to our changing climate, food security is one of the most important challenges of this century.
NASA technology is helping keep our leaders informed our markets stable, and our populations fed.